The Twilight Zone-Rod Serling's Lost Classics (1994)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
|Year Of Production||1994|
|Running Time||88:00 (Case: 93)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Richard Markowitz|
James Earl Jones
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
You, like me, might be wondering what the heck this has to do with The Twilight Zone. Obviously being colour it has nothing to do with the original series, so it must be something to do with the second incarnation of the show, right? Well, it does not take long to work out that the episode listing for the later series does not include any "episodes" with the names The Theatre or Where The Dead Are. So, what exactly are these "lost classics"? Well, let us just say it is some stretch by a marketing person to come up with the tenuous connection of these two "episodes" with The Twilight Zone as we know it. What the "episodes" actually represent are two original screenplays by Rod Serling that have been found and in a fairly obvious attempt to make a buck, were promptly filmed for television broadcast. The fact that they were not ever made into episodes of The Twilight Zone whilst the great man was alive is of course indicated by the fact that neither is actually that great: simply, they would not have made great episodes at least on the original series. Just because the great wrote them does not mean they are worthy of filming - even old Will Shakespeare managed to write some less-than-stellar stuff.
Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest that the reason that Rod Serling tossed aside The Theatre is for the simple reason that he realised it would not work well as an episode of the revered series. By far the weaker of the two "episodes", the premise might have been intriguing but the execution really does not work at all. Add onto that the fact that Amy Irving could not act her way out of a paper bag (which inert object probably has more emotional believability than Amy) and Gary Cole is barely much better hardly helps the equation at all. You know you are in real trouble when the blurb mentions the stars credits - and you have never heard of the films. This really is denigrating the name of The Twilight Zone. It has to be said though that Where The Dead Are is a generally much stronger effort and perhaps is closer to meeting the standards required for the series. In this case, I would suspect that Rod Serling simply never got the chance to go back and refine this into the good Zone episode that is lurking in here somewhere. It also helps that the acting quality here is of a vastly superior stature. Both Patrick Bergin and Jack Palance do a good job, whilst Jenna Stern and Julia Campbell certainly contribute well. Chopped down to a tighter 50 minute length, this could have made a good Zone episode.
However, the fact that the material itself is not the best never stopped the unoriginal dim lights of television from actually anteing up the dough to film stuff that presumably the great man did not believe worthy of inclusion in the original series. So we have on offer Rod Serling's Lost Classics. I can just about hear him turning in his grave. The actual "episodes" are:
The Theatre - Melissa (Amy Irving) is an artist, a woman of no real distinction in the world. She has a boyfriend in the form of James (Gary Cole), a doctor who sometimes places his work above the woman in his life. One night Melissa heads off to the theatre to see an oldie but a goodie - His Girl Friday. Whilst sitting there watching this classic, the film suddenly takes on a new form - one that spookily enough represents parts of Melissa's day up to that moment. She thinks that Gary is really smart for having thought this up and making it happen, so she heads to the hospital to see him. Only he had little to do with the occurrence and knows not of what she speaks. Worried now, Melissa returns to the theatre to watch the film again and sees things that really start to spook her - for she is now seeing not just events of recent past but apparently events of near future. Events I might add that she is none too thrilled to see. Escaping to her boyfriend, he being the rational scientist believes not what she tells him and convinces her it is hokum. Little does he realise that this might well be The Twilight Zone.
Where The Dead Are - The setting is Boston in 1868 and Doctor Benjamin Ramsey (Patrick Bergin) is a surgeon skilled in many ways, and engaged in educating the next generation of doctors. As was the situation in those days, actual live volunteers were used to demonstrate surgical techniques - with the usual result of turning those poor sods into cadavers. Thus it was this time - the volunteer died of infection after a successful appendectomy. Nothing really unusual about that back in those days, but nonetheless the death of this man has intrigued Benjamin - quite simply, he is displaying a skull fracture the likes of which would have felled a Tyrannosaurus Rex, let alone an ordinary man. The good doctor also manages to recall that sometime in the past a Jeremy Wheaton (Jack Palance) had speculated upon some treatments that would have extended life, before disappearing out of sight. Intrigued, the doctor heads off to the town from whence, coincidentally, the volunteer and said Jeremy Wheaton both hailed. The purpose of his mission - to make some connection between the horrific injury that this man seemed to have survived and Mr Wheaton. His arrival in Yarmouth, the town in question, creates some curiosity amongst the locals - not the least young Maureen the barmaid (Julia Campbell) at the local inn who seems to offer more than just alcohol to weary travellers. Eager to go to visit Jeremy Wheaton, the good doctor hires a local to take him over to Shadow Island by boat, where his eyes are opened for two reasons: what he sees done and Susan (Jenna Stern), Jeremy's niece.
With the shows being made for television consumption, the transfer are obviously presented in the usual aspect ratio of that blighted box, namely 1.33:1. As a result the transfers are of course not 16x9 enhanced. It should be noted that in keeping with the low grade nature of the shows, the DVD has been mastered with NO time information encoded. Accordingly, at least on my player, all that is displayed in the display is the rather useless message PLAY. A rough timing suggest that The Theatre runs for about 27 minutes whilst Where The Dead Are runs for about 61 minutes. Interestingly, during both shows the player goes into search mode quite obviously (distinct picture pause, nice and lengthy) yet this is a single layer, single sided DVD. Quite why this is the case I don't know. This occurs about 15 minutes into The Theatre and about 18 minutes into Where The Dead Are.
The overall quality of the transfers leaves a bit to be desired. The definition is nothing more than average and a lot more sharpness would not have gone astray at all here. Clarity is pretty average all things considered, although this seems to be inherent in the source material as there is no really obvious grain or other major issues here at all. It just looks like cheap stock has been used. Shadow detail is not the best and an improvement in this area would certainly have aided both shows to some degree. There does not appear to be any issue with low level noise in the transfer.
Considering that this was made in about 1994, the quality of the colour here is fairly average to say the least. There is a general lack of depth to the colours that appear to be indistinct at times. It sort of reminds me of a colourful impressionist painting where someone has come along just before the pain has dried and rubbed a cloth lightly across the picture. It is not muted but certainly is not especially well defined colour-wise. There is a tendency to oversaturation which I am guessing is the result of the cheap film stock used rather than any other problems. Where The Dead Are has been done in a deliberately false colour style, with a noticeable tinting of orange or yellow throughout. It is almost like someone has striven for a sepia-tint style of presentation to try and evoke an impression of old in the transfer. The result is not exactly off-putting but certainly renders skin tones in an unconvincing way.
There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Then things go downhill. There is plenty of aliasing in the transfer, especially during The Theatre. This is most noticeable in the signs at the theatre (approximately 5:00 and 10:00 are examples), the car (approximately 9:00) and the hat (approximately 20:00). During Where The Dead Are there is a section of the show, most noticeably between 19:00 and 21:00 where the transfer displays horizontal lines across the picture that move in a generally downward motion. I have not seen something like this for a fair while, although it used to be not unknown of in VHS tapes, so I wonder whether this may be a source material problem as opposed to a telecine problem. There are also sections of Where The Dead Are that exhibit noticeable auras around people (see Susan around 51:00). Presumably this is some sort of gross edge enhancement that has gone awry. To round out the problems with the transfer, there are a fair few film artefacts floating around and most of these fall into the fairly obvious category.
Rounding out the lacklustre presentation, hearing impaired viewers will be less than impressed to note that there are no subtitles on the DVD.
There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 effort. Quite unbelievably, this is presented at 448Kb/s. Might sound like a fine idea, but when the soundtrack is this mundane why bother with anything more than 224Kb/s?
The dialogue for both shows was reasonably clear and generally easy to understand. Whether it was just sloppy ADR work or not I don't know, but The Theatre seemed to be very marginally out of sync throughout. No big deal and probably most will not even notice it but it just bugged me a little. Otherwise, there did not seem to be any other audio sync problems in the transfer.
The music credit for the shows is one Patrick Williams. Suffice it to say that he is no John Williams and little here raises anywhere above banal and trite. I was not expecting much and it certainly did not deliver much.
Banal is probably a good way of describing the entire soundtrack. There is nothing memorable here at all and it simply lacks anything of distinction. It conveys the dialogue and music to the viewer and that is about all that is required.
|Surround Channel Use|
It would have been nice to have an extended essay on the circumstances of the discovery of these screenplays and the reasons why someone thought them worthy enough to bring them to the small screen. We don't get it.
Irritatingly, uses the famous opening sequence from the genuine The Twilight Zone, right down to Rod Serling's spoken introduction as the backdrop to the otherwise unremarkable menu.
Comprising ten stills from the shows, if anything they are even worse looking than the shows. Diffuse is an under-description.
For want of a better description, this runs for about 3 minutes and is presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with ordinary Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Hardly worthwhile bothering with it really, other than to prove how average the shows actually are.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
As far as can be ascertained, this is pretty much identical to the Region 1 release. Since any purchase from the US is going to be costly, this Region 4 release has to be the way to go if you want to add this DVD to your collection.
You would have to be a seriously die hard Rod Serling fan determined to elevate him to the status of greatest writer ever to want to indulge in this DVD. The use of the The Twilight Zone name on the package is nothing but a cheap marketing trick to draw attention to a release that would otherwise be ignored totally. Only Where The Dead Are comes anywhere near demonstrating sufficient quality to be mentioned in the same terms as that hallowed show.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|